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September 2010

North Caucasus
On the anniversary of the Beslan terrorist attack [1/9/04], victims’ parents and the Voice of Beslan Committee called for an impartial investigation into the tragedy and a rally was held in Vladikavkaz (5/9). An explosion in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, killed 19 and injured more than 130 people (9/9); four service personnel had earlier been killed and 30 injured in an explosion in Buinaksk, Dagestan (5/9). Memorial Human Rights Centre reported that security forces abducted seven people from a village in Achkhoi-Martan district on 24/9. Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin asked the General Prosecutor’s Office to investigate reports women with uncovered heads have been attacked in Groznyi.

Right of Assembly
Organizers of demonstrations faced court sanctions. In Novocherkassk rally organizers Oleg Prudnikov and Maksim Slipchenko were sentenced (1/9) to ten days’ detention. In Moscow Lev Ponomarev was sentenced (7/9) to four days’ detention for not obeying police at a demonstration on 12/8. In Moscow police detained 19 demonstrating in favour of a new Moscow-St. Petersburg highway via Khimki (11/9); detained more than 20 people at a Day of Anger demonstration at Tverskaya Square (12/9); and detained 10 while dispersing a gay rights rally (21/9). In St. Petersburg Andrei Pivovarov was sentenced (14/9) to 14-days’ detention and fined for staging a St. Petersburg rally on 31/8. At month’s end, there were indications authorities were taking a more permissive approach. A demonstration of up to 3,000 people took place in Moscow with official sanction calling for direct elections for city mayor (25/9). Moscow’s Tverskaya district court acquitted (27/9) Sergei Udaltsov charged with organizing a Moscow Day of Anger demonstration (12/9). Moscow City Court ruled unlawful the ban on the 20/3 Day of Anger demonstration. In a civil case, Moscow City Court ruled City Hall must give reasons for banning a Gay Rights march in May.

Media Rights
Media remained under pressure from the authorities. Police raided the New Times magazine (2/9) demanding journalists hand over interview recordings used in reports on alleged police abuses. In Altai Sergei Mikhailov, editor of Listok, was charged with defamation and inciting ethnic hatred for calling the region’s administration a “nest of vipers” and the governor an “alcoholic.” The governor also sued Mikhailov, claiming 500,000 roubles in damages. Positive developments were the recommendation of a Plenum of the Supreme Court that courts at all levels should not allow excessive claims for defamation. The Investigative Committee reopened an investigation into the 2003 death of journalist Yury Shchekochikhin (16/9) and investigations into the deaths of five other journalists (30/9).

Human Rights Defenders
Moscow Helsinki Group and other NGOs said (14/9) prosecutors had initiated a series of in-depth inspections. Civil society activists announced (15/9) a Civic Constitutional Forum (12/12) to discuss defence of the constitution and civil rights. Microsoft Corporation said (13/9) it will give a free licence for selected software to Russian NGOs and media. Gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseev was detained by police at Domodedovo airport (15/9) and held in an unknown location by men he believed were state security agents. Police in Komi reportedly detained almost all members of the board of Komi Memorial on the eve of Prime Minister Putin’s visit to the Republic. About 300 people demonstrated in Moscow (19/9) against the detention of Antifa activists Aleksei Gaskarov and Maksim Solopov.

Justice Reform
Public discussion of police reform on a government web site ended 15/9. Some human rights advocates said they planned to draft an alternative bill. President Medvedev gave the Interior Ministry two weeks to draft amendments to the proposed police bill taking public criticism into account (23/9). President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree separating the Investigative Committee from the Prosecutor General's Office (27/9).